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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Republican Nominating Process

At Crystal Ball, Rhodes Cook writes:

Both national parties have agreed to push back the start of their nominating process by one month from 2008. That year, Iowa and New Hampshire voted in the shadow of New Year’s Day, and by Super Tuesday (Feb. 5), more than half the country had voted. To nearly everyone in the political community, the last nominating season began too early, peaked too soon and, for Republicans, was over much too quickly. John McCain had the nomination wrapped up by early March.

Such an early ending should not occur again next year – so long as the states follow the new rules, that is. No state is allowed to vote in January. Only Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina will be permitted to vote in February. The rest of the country will be allowed to hold their primary or caucus beginning the first Tuesday in March (March 6, 2012), which will be the new “Super Tuesday.”

In addition, new GOP rules forbid any contests held before April 1 to award all of a state’s delegates to the statewide winner. That could be a major concern to Republican leaders in many early-voting states, who used winner-take-all in the past to attract the interest of candidates and enhance their state’s influence. If their state votes before April 1 next year, it will be required to provide for the division of delegates proportionately among candidates to reflect their share of the vote.

Proportional representation has been a staple of Democratic rules for a generation and was one reason why the 2008 contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was so long running. But for Republicans, this is new ground. And it is not completely clear yet how the proportional representation requirement for pre-April states will be implemented.

However, to David Norcross, the former chairman of the rules committee of the Republican National Committee (RNC), the change is “majestically simple.” For a decade, Republican rules makers considered an array of complex plans to arrest “front-loading,” including ones where states would vote in inverse order of size. But with the elimination of pre-April winner-take-all events in 2012, many GOP officials hope that they have not only found a simple way to slow down the nominating process but also to encourage states to hold their primary or caucus well after Super Tuesday.

Cook notes another potential change that may affect the outcome in unknown ways. Cash-strapped states may abandon expensive primaries in favor of caucuses. Candidates with passionate followings (Pat Robertson for the Republicans in 1988) or strong organization (Barack Obama for the Democrats in 2008) would have a greater edge in caucuses than in primaries.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bad Numbers for POTUS

CNN reports:

Economic growth slowed to a crawl in the first three months of the year as a spike in gasoline, higher overall inflation and continued weakness in the housing market all took a toll on the recovery.

Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's economic health, rose at an annual rate of 1.8%, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. That's a significant slowdown from the 3.1% growth rate in the final quarter of 2010.

Most predictions for growth have fallen precipitously over the past several weeks as rising prices spooked forecasters. Economists surveyed by CNNMoney were predicting growth of 2.0% in the first quarter. But some estimates were as high as 4.3% just two months earlier.

Gallup reports:

More than half of Americans (55%) describe the U.S. economy as being in a recession or depression, even as the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) reports that "the economic recovery is proceeding at a moderate pace." Another 16% of Americans say the economy is "slowing down," and 27% believe it is growing.

David Lightman writes for McClatchy:

Public disapproval of President Barack Obama's handling of the economy reached a new high in mid-April, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll, as gasoline prices neared $4 a gallon and Washington lawmakers fought a bitter battle over the federal budget.
Some 57 percent of registered voters said they disapproved of Obama's economic management, while only 40 percent approved. That's the lowest score of his presidency.
"These numbers spell political trouble," said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York, which conducted the survey. "To get re-elected with a 57 percent disapproval rating would be a very tall order."
Meanwhile, public pessimism is growing: Fifty-seven percent of U.S. adults said they thought the worst was yet to come for the U.S economy, up sharply from 39 percent in January. And 71 percent said the nation was still in a recession, even though the slump, which began in December 2007, officially ended in June 2009.

Tom Bevan writes at RealClearPolitics:

As President Obama gears up for his 2012 re-election bid, a new poll of voters in Pennsylvania presents some ominous warning signs for the president. A Quinnipac University poll of 1,366 registered Pennsylvania voters conducted last week shows Obama's job approval rating slipping to just 42 percent, an all time low, while 53 percent disapprove of the way the president is handling his job.

The finding represents a sharp decline in the president's standing in the Keystone State. Quinnipiac's last poll in Pennsylvania, taken just nine weeks ago in mid-February, showed 51 percent of voters approved of the job the President Obama is doing, while 44 percent disapproved.

Perhaps even more concerning to Obama's campaign team is that for the first time a majority of Pennsylvania voters say President Obama does not deserve another term in the White House. Fifity two percent of voters -- including 56 percent of independents -- say Obama does not deserve re-election, while just 42 percent believe he does.

In 2008, Obama carried Pennsylvania by a comfortable 11-point margin over John McCain, 55 to 44.

The Washington Post reports:

More Americans disapprove of President Obama’s management of the war in Afghanistan than support it, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, a finding that reflects the public’s broader concern over the course of the nearly decade-old conflict.

Americans have given Obama wide leeway in escalating the conflict in Afghanistan, which as a presidential candidate he called “the war we have to win.” That latitude is changing — and fairly quickly — as the longer-running of the two wars he inherited approaches the 10-year mark.

In the Post-ABC News survey released Monday, 49 percent of respondents said they disapprove of Obama’s management of the war and 44 percent voiced approval. The disapproval mark is the highest on record in Post-ABC News polling. Overall, the figures have essentially flipped since January, the last time the poll asked the question. In that survey, 49 percent approved of Obama’s handling of the Afghanistan war and 41 percent disapproved.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lessons from the Certificate

The whole birth certificate issue has larger lessons for all candidates, as my friend Lloyd Green perceptively notes:

Memo to prospective Republican 2012 presidential candidates: make a complete disclosure now. Release your complete birth records, all your transcripts, 10 years’ worth of tax returns, and any and all arrest records. Do it now, not later. Let the American voter know who you really are.

Tell America where you were born, whether you have an arrest record, how much money you make, how much taxes you pay, how much and to whom do you donate to charity, what is your financial worth, what do you in in property and investments, how financially indebted are you and who are your clients, where did you go to school, what courses did you take and what were your grades. The public has a right to know. During the campaign release the names and amounts of campaign contributions in real time.

Can disclosure be embarrassing? We know the answer to that question. But we also know that refusal to come clean is worse.

During the 2000 campaign, George W. Bush failed to disclose his 1976 arrest for driving under the influence, until Fox New’s Carl Cameron broke the story. Bush’s inability to admit the truth until he was caught likely cost him the popular vote and nearly cost him the November election.

Obama, Trump, Alinsky, and Nixon

By releasing his long-form birth certificate today, the president drew attention to Donald Trump, who was delighted to take credit: "Today I am very proud of myself because I have accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish."

Two quotations shed light on today's events:
Saul Alinsky: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual."

Richard Nixon: "Politics is battle, and the best way to fire up your troops is to rally them against a visible opponent on the other side of the field."
It would suit the president just fine if Donald Trump became the face of the Republican Party. A bombastic, hedonistic billionaire whose slogan is "You're fired!" would make a perfect foil.

Expect leading Democrats to start referring to the GOP as "the party of Donald Trump."

You heard it here first.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hedge Fund Money

In Epic Journey (p. 106), we noted candidate Obama's success at raising money from hedge fund managers. The Wall Street Journal reports that times have changed:

Hedge-fund managers made a big bet on Barack Obama and other Democrats in 2008. Now, with the 2012 contest gearing up, some prominent fund managers have turned their backs on the party and are actively supporting Republicans.

Daniel Loeb, founder of Third Point LLC, was one of the biggest Obama fund-raisers in 2008, rounding up $200,000 for him, according to campaign-finance records. In the decade prior, Mr. Loeb and his wife donated $250,000 to Democrats and less than $10,000 to Republicans.

But since Mr. Obama's inauguration, Mr. Loeb has given $468,000 to Republican candidates and the GOP, and just $8,000 to Democrats. Hedge-fund kings have feelings, too, and the president appears to have hurt them.

"I am sure, if we are really nice and stay quiet, everything will be alright and the president will become more centrist and that all his tough talk is just words," Mr. Loeb wrote in an email about four months ago expressing frustration with the president's posture toward Wall Street. "I mean, he really loves us and when he beats us, he doesn't mean it." The email, sent to eight friends, was widely circulated on Wall Street.

Mr. Loeb is part of a shift in political allegiance within the world of hedge funds that also includes such big names as Steven Cohen's SAC Capital Advisors and Kenneth Griffin's Citadel Investment Group. Managers and employees of hedge funds directed a majority of their contributions to the GOP in the 2009-2010 election season, a pattern not seen since 1996, when the industry was much smaller.

See data from The Center for Responsive Politics.

As a previous post noted, American Crossroads was one beneficiary of the shift in 2010.

GOP Surviving the Budget Battle, For Now

Susan Page writes at USA Today:

A new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds that House Republicans, who took a political risk in passing a controversial budget blueprint last week, have survived so far with some key advantages intact as Congress moves toward the debate on raising the debt ceiling, passing the 2012 budget and enacting a long-term deficit plan.

Americans are evenly divided between the deficit plan proposed by President Obama and the one drafted by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, and those surveyed put more trust in Republicans than Democrats to handle the federal budget and the economy.

Pessimistic about the economy and the nation’s course, they overwhelmingly blame too much spending for soaring federal deficits and want to rely more on spending cuts than tax hikes to get it under control.

The poll also shows the perils ahead for the GOP in moving from general principles to specific actions. Two-thirds of Americans worry the Republican plan for reducing the budget deficit would cut Medicare and Social Security too much.

Ryan and other Republican House members already have faced hostile questions at town-hall-style meetings in their home districts from seniors and others about the GOP proposal to turn the nation’s health care program for the elderly into what would essentially be a voucher system. The GOP budget blueprint would overhaul Medicare, turn Medicaid into block grants for the states and trim trillions of dollars in spending on discretionary programs. It would lower tax rates for top earners and corporations.

“The bad news for the Democrats is that even after the Ryan budget comes out and has been attacked for a little while, the Republicans have an advantage,” says Joseph White, a political scientist at Case Western Reserve University who studies budget politics and policy

Biden and 2016

At The New York Times, Michael Shear suggests a reason why some potential GOP candidates will wait until 2016:

If President Obama wins reelection, there is almost zero chance that Vice President Joe Biden would run for the presidency in 2016, when he would be 76 years old. That puts him in the same place that Dick Cheney, the former vice president was in 2008. That means that Republicans who can afford to wait until 2016 can assure themselves not only that they will not face an incumbent Democratic president, but also that they won’t face a sitting vice president.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Constituents React to the GOP Budget

The Los Angeles Times sees warning signs:
The signs over the last week have been mixed. Republicans heard their core supporters urging them to take strong stands and hold fast on the next big budget fight — the debate over raising the federal debt limit.

In Illinois, freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger was cheered for his hard-line stance on that debate. "If it came to me to raise it today, I would vote no," he told a senior center 50 miles south of Chicago.

But in many places, Democrats turned out to express their opposition, much as Republicans had done in the healthcare debate. In a Pennsylvania coal town, a man outraged by the GOP budget plan was escorted out of a town hall by police. In Wisconsin, Rep. Paul D. Ryan, the architect of the Republican plan, was booed in his own district as he outlined the proposal.

Here in Hillsborough, a bedroom community in a state known for a fiscally conservative streak, Bass painted a doomsday picture, saying the country would be "basically ruined" if it did not curb the growth of government. But a group of gray-haired constituents — most later identified themselves as Democrats — quickly pushed him back on his heels. He struggled to defend the GOP plan vigorously, once mischaracterizing a key element. By the time he left, he seemed less than wedded to the details.
At Slate, however, David Weigel has a different take, noting a fairly quiet town hall meeting with Pat Meehan (R-PA):

Have there been town halls with a little more anger and vigor than Meehan's? Of course. On Thursday, the Huffington Post's Jason Linkins pointed to four local stories about gruff congressional meet-and-greets. Three of the four were held by new members who'd won districts that had been Kerry/Obama turf before. At his town hall, Rep. Charlie Bass, R-N.H., took question after question about his vote for the Ryan budget from a voter who'd voted for Obama, then voted for Bass.

These are nice stories for Democrats, but they don't endanger Ryan's budget. The lack of anger on display leaves an impression: Perhaps Ryan's Medicare plan isn't inducing mass panic as the Democrats' Medicare plans did. (That would be something, because the Medicare spending cuts in "ObamaCare" and the reforms in Ryan's bill are not worlds apart.) If that impression sticks, Republicans will return to Washington in May with the knowledge that the polls are a little overheated and Ryan's budget is a go.

Where are the liberal protesters? Is there a brilliant rope-a-dope strategy in place, some plan to get Republicans even further out on a limb before hammering them in the August recess? Possibly. Labor strategists say that there'll be a much bigger focus on generating turnout at town halls come August; Ben Smith has been reporting on their plans to nationalize the actions they pulled off in Wisconsin. There really is no larger plan in effect for now. "We're focused on educating our members [on] the budget," a spokesman for the AFL-CIO told me, "and not showing up at Republican town halls." Democratic strategists say there is no larger strategy at work right now. Linda Christman, a Pennsylvania activist who started one of the only videotaped arguments with a member of Congress, was basically an independent operator. Meanwhile, the American Action Network, the think tank and campaign shop run by former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, is making Ryan budget talking points and questions available for conservatives who want to buck up their members.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Shake Hands, Donald

In the novel Primary Colors, Joe Klein wrote that "the handshake is the threshold act, the beginning of politics."

A few weeks ago, Donald Trump said: "If I decide to run, I will be shaking hands with everybody."

If so, he will find it challenging. In February, New York magazine reported:
In case you weren't aware, Trump hates shaking hands. In his 1997 book The Art of the Comeback, he wrote, "One of the curses of American society is the simple act of shaking hands, and the more successful and famous one becomes the worse this terrible custom seems to get. I happen to be a clean hands freak. I feel much better after I thoroughly wash my hands, which I do as much as possible." On a number of occasions, he later referred to handshaking as "barbaric."
Then again, he has actually done it (though in the second clip, he's wearing gloves):

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Outsiderism in Virginia

George Allen was briefly a House member from Virginia, then served as the state's governor and junior senator. After losing his seat to James Webb in 2006, he started George Allen Strategies, a lobbying and consulting firm in Alexandria. He is running to return to the Senate. In National Journal, Jim O'Sullivan writes that conservative opponents are criticizing him.

Allen tells a different story. His long-held beliefs—balanced budgets and reduced spending—in his telling, have now become en vogue. Taking a break from the glad-handing to talk to reporters, surrounded by tables rich with beer in Solo cups, Allen calls himself “a common-sense, Jeffersonian conservative.”

Allen adds: “We’re running this as a grassroots insurgency.” The former establishment Republican even says he “may” join the Senate’s new Tea Party Caucus.

Friday, April 22, 2011

American Crossroads and Medicare

Laura Meckler writes at The Wall Street Journal:

Two major Republican outside groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, are also planning to weigh in on Medicare. But rather than just attack Democrats, as they did last year, the groups will work to educate voters that Medicare needs changes, spokesman Jonathan Collegio said.

“Voters are increasingly aware there’s a problem, and they are skeptical of all the solutions,” he said. “You will see outside organizations playing an increasing role in educating the public over the positions that are out there.”

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Attention to Trump

Pew reports:

Donald Trump has drawn a lot of attention in a slow-starting race for the GOP nomination. Roughly a quarter of all Americans (26%) name Trump as the possible Republican presidential candidate they have heard most about lately, far more than volunteer any other candidate. Among Republicans, 39% name Trump as most visible – more than all other possible GOP candidates combined.

To be sure, Trump is standing out in a contest that has yet to draw much public interest or media coverage. In fact, about half of all Americans (53%) could not name anyone when asked which GOP candidate they have been hearing the most about.

Overall, just 20% of the public say they followed possible candidates for the 2012 presidential elections very closely last week and just 4% named it as their most closely followed story. The disaster in Japan was once again the most closely followed story (at 26%), according to Pew Research’s News Interest Index. The survey was conducted April 14-17 among 1,015 adults.

Context is important, however. Candidates are entering the race much more slowly than they did four years ago, so nobody knows exactly what the field will look like. At the Huffington Post, Jason Linkins writes:

The 2012 election: wasn't it supposed to have started by now? If you are a normal person, living your normal life, you probably don't really care. 2012 is supposed to start in 2012, after all, and it's supposed to maybe end in a worldwide cataclysm anyway, so you're probably taking it easy. But we're almost all the way to April, and none of the people who promised to run for president are all that close to making a decision, and it's basically led to sadness and garment-rending among the people who thought they'd be covering it to death by now and happily ignoring things like the fact that you or someone you love doesn't have a job.

American Crossroads Tweaks DCCC

At Politico, Ben Smith reports:

The Republican group American Crossroads released this morning, with some amusement, the sums that the DCCC is putting down on an ad hitting 25 Republican freshmen on Medicare.

The numbers are all nominal, and range from $40 to $400. Dollars, the group noted, not thousands.

"For the DCCC’s next major initiative, we hear they plan to hand out balloons and refrigerator magnets in northwestern Pennsylvania," said Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio.

DCCC spokeswoman Jennifer Crider responds: "Unlike Crossroads, we don't take shady secret money so we invest wisely in targeted districts. The initial buy of 15-second radio ads in 25 districts has been placed. Stay tuned for more to come."

Great Moments in Academic Civility

The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports:

A University of Iowa professor who studies same-sex relationships was so upset by a mass email from a campus Republican group promoting "Conservative Coming Out Week" that she fired off a vulgarity aimed at all Republicans.

Ellen Lewin, a professor of Anthropology and Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies in the Department of Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies, responded to the email by writing, "F*** YOU, REPUBLICANS" from her official University of Iowa email account

She then issued a non-apology:

I admit the language was inappropriate, and apologize for any affront to anyone’s delicate sensibilities. I would really appreciate your not sending blanket emails to everyone on campus, especially in these difficult times.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 65

Shaun Boyd of KCNC Denver interviewed the president:

Dominic Dezzutti of KCNC writes:

While Shaun’s questions were posed well, the President did not give many direct or unpredictable answers. But even though he avoided some questions, President Obama still said quite a bit in the way he responded.

President Obama’s answers were very guarded considering he’s an official candidate for re-election as of a few weeks ago.

Instead of new ideas or fresh proposals that his administration had for the real problems and issues that Shaun brought up, Obama spent more time defending himself and his past decisions.

When Shaun pressed him on jobs, it took President Obama a long time to get back to the real issue of the rising unemployment rate in Colorado. And even when he did, he went back to the “clean energy” issue, as if a solar panel plant or wind mill factory are the only places that can put unemployed people back to work.

A defensive posture and a lack of new ideas in a ten minute interview are not shocking. This interview was not set up to be a miniature State of the Union speech.

However, what the interview told me was that when President Obama gets serious again about campaigning in the West, he will have to dig deep to find that creative optimist he was in 2008. If he brings the same defensiveness and long explanations with him on the campaign trail next year, the record-breaking crowds will not be there to hear it.

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 64

Bradley Watson of WFAA Dallas interviewed the president, who apparently was displeased with the way it went. (Transcript via The Examiner. The White House posted no text on its website.)

Watson: Why do you think you're so unpopular in Texas?

Obama: Well, look, the, uh, Texas has always been pretty, uh, uh, Republican state for uh, you know for historic reasons.

Watson voice-over:
However, he inferred his election meant Texas politics were changing.

: We, uh, lost by a few percentage points in Texas.

Watson: Aw, you, uh, well you lost about ten.

Well, I understand. If what you're telling me is that Texas is a conservative state, you're absolutely right.

Watson voice-over: Republican Governor Rick Perry frequently and harshly criticizes the president over the health care law, EPA regulations on Texas oil and gas industries and the budget. But Mr. Obama hinted at hypocrisy by Perry.

Obama: Governor Perry helped balance his budget with about $6 billion worth of federal help, that which he happily took and then started blaming, uh, the members of congress who had offered that help.

Watson voice-over: Houston Republicans and Democrats suspect the Obama administration skipped Houston to award shuttle orbiters to states that would help in the reelection.

That's wrong.

Watson: So was the shuttle not awarded to Houston because of politics?

I just said that was wrong. I had nothing to do with it. The White House had nothing to do with it. There was a whole commission, a whole process, that's how the decision was made.

Watson: You weren't personally involved in the decision?

Obama: I, uh, I just said that wasn't true.

Watson voice-over: He claimed an immigration reform bill still isn't dead.

Well, the question is gonna be are we gonna be able to find some Republicans who can partner with me and others to get this done once and for all instead of using it for a political football.

Watson voice-over:
And the president says he's not giving up on Texas.

Are you going to campaign in Texas for the reelection or is the state written off?

I never, uh, write-off any states. I, I, I never write off states and I love, uh, I love Texas. [looking away when he said he loved Texas]

Watson voice-over
: After the interview, Mr. Obama pointed out that he doesn't like an interviewer challenging his comment.

Obama: Let me finish my answers the next time we're doing this, alright?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Mitt Romney is not the only GOP candidate who has to grapple with flaws. At USA Today, Susan Page writes:

The most credible contenders to take on President Obama in 2012 must deal first with vulnerabilities that threaten their standing in the GOP — “a deal-killer,” says Trey Grayson, a once-rising star in the Kentucky GOP who is director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics.

“Going into this cycle, every candidate you can envision being the nominee has a real question they have to answer to Republican primary voters,” says former GOP national chairman Ed Gillespie. “There’s really not any one of the most significant candidates who doesn’t have some issue that has to be addressed before they can capture the nomination.”

Having to deal with a big vulnerability isn’t new, of course. Four years ago, Arizona Sen. John McCain had to persuade party regulars that he was a loyal Republican despite a history of forming alliances with Democrats on issues such as campaign finance. He eventually won the nomination.

What’s notable this time is that everyone seems afflicted.

Some of the candidates have been caught in the party’s increasingly conservative tide, having to account for past positions on health care or the environment that weren’t so far out of the party’s mainstream at the time but now are more in line with Democrats’ views. What’s more, the profusion of websites and bloggers means issues are raised, circulated and scrutinized with a velocity that’s unprecedented.

She identifies several tactics for dealing with these shortcomings:

  1. Apologize (Pawlenty on cap-and-trade);
  2. Explain (Romney on Romneycare; Huckabee on the Clemmons commutation);
  3. Fix (Gingrich on faith and family; Barbour on race)
  4. Turn it around (Barbour on lobbying; Huntsman on his ambassadorship).

At The Washington Post, Dan Balz and Jon Cohen reports good news/bad news for the field:

Deepening economic pessimism has pushed down President Obama’s approval rating to a near record low, but he holds an early advantage over prospective 2012 rivals in part because of widespread dissatisfaction with Republican candidates, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

In the survey, 47 percent approve of the job Obama is doing, down seven points since January. Half of all Americans disapprove of his job performance, with 37 percent saying they “strongly disapprove,” nearly matching the worst level of his presidency.

Driving the downward movement in Obama’s standing are renewed concerns about the economy and fresh worry about rising prices, particularly for gasoline. Despite signs of economic growth, 44 percent of Americans see the economy as getting worse, the highest percentage to say so in more than two years.

The toll on Obama is direct: 57 percent disapprove of the job the president is doing dealing with the economy, tying his highest negative rating when it comes to the issue. And the president is doing a bit worse among politically important independents.

If Obama is running into headwinds, however, his potential Republican opponents face serious problems, as well. Less than half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they are satisfied with the field of GOP candidates.

That field is still taking shape, but the sentiment is a big falloff from four years ago, when nearly two-thirds of Republicans were satisfied with their options.

Lack of enthusiasm for the candidates came in other measures, as well. When Republicans and GOP-leaners were asked who they would vote for in a primary or caucus, only former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney registered in double digits, with 16 percent. More than double that number expressed no opinion and an additional 12 percent volunteered “none” or “no one.”

Businessman Donald Trump (8 percent), former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (6 percent) and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (5 percent) were the only other names volunteered by more than 2 percent of respondents.

Monday, April 18, 2011

An Early Look at 2012 Online

Andy Barr writes at Politico:

Sarah Palin rolled out a new website for her PAC on Monday with significantly more content and features, along with a vehicle for Palin to start gathering email addresses and information from her supporters.

The new site,, is a necessary step if Palin intends to run for president and for the first time gives her organization the ability to interact with her supporters by providing a centralized location to collect data and solicit donations. Though Palin maintains a staff of several seasoned political hands, she had yet to build out some of the basic needs of a political organization — including an email list.

SarahPAC Treasurer Tim Crawford told POLITICO that the new site has been in the work for some time and was designed to engage more directly with Palin supporters.

“We needed a new website, one that was more interactive,” Crawford said. “We’re certainly engaging with Sarah’s supporters.”

Seema Mehta writes at The Los Angeles Times:
Pre-Obama, the political world viewed digital as a box that had to be checked," said Bryan Merica, a GOP new-media consultant. "What Obama did was show this is a tool we can use to not only fundraise but win elections."

Patrick Ruffini, another new-media consultant, described the 2008 Obama campaign as the "gold standard."

"Republicans, after that campaign, we were kind of licking our wounds, wondering how we could do this better," he said.

They have since learned; the "tea party" movement was built in part on social media connections, much as Obama's campaign.

Ruffini cited the Internet's role in the 2010 election of Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, delivering $12 million in donations in the 18 days before he captured the Senate seat that had been held by the late Democrat Edward M. Kennedy.

"Digital … made a game-changing difference in the race," said Ruffini, whose firm worked on the Brown campaign and is now working for Pawlenty.

Among the most remarkable users is Palin, who routinely posts notes to her nearly 3 million followers on Facebook in order to bypass what she calls the "lamestream" media.

"I can't think of any time in American history where the vice presidential candidate on a losing ticket has been so iconic two, three years after the election," said Paul Levinson, a Fordham University social media expert. "That's because Sarah Palin uses Facebook and all these new media quite effectively."
Ty Fujumura writes at The Huffington Post:

"It wouldn't have been the same election without the design," says Aaron Perry-Zucker, a then-senior at RISD who founded, a web application that collected posters from pro-Obama designers and formatted them for easy downloading and printing. Launched in just a week, the site garnered hundreds of submissions from around the world and was spun off into an art book edited by Perry-Zucker and filmmaker Spike Lee.

Design historian Steven Heller wrote during the campaign that "never, as far as I can tell, in the history of presidential campaigns has such a huge outpouring of independent posters been created for a single candidate. This election's poster child is definitely Barack Obama." Merited or not, the Obama campaign so galvanized designers that it created a full-fledged visual movement more typical of a revolution than than election.

The visual characteristics of the Obama brand became trendy, and remain so. The sweeping gradients and subtle shadows of Obama's 2008 site and the new were not new, but atypical, and Obama's look propelled those trends to prominence. The campaign's favored typeface, Gotham by Hoefler and Frere-Jones, was recently acquired by MOMA along with 23 other "New Faces". McCain's oft-used Trajan, typical of movie posters, gravestones and memorials, was not.

"Picking Gotham over Trajan is clearly a hip move, showing that you know something about the design zeitgeist, about the evolution of typography, and going with something that feels modern and clean," Perry-Zucker says. The typefaces, featured prominently in the endless torrent of campaign ads ran by both sides during the race, contributed greatly to the perceived character of each candidate. Trajan versus Gotham encapsulated how the public ultimately judged the election: old versus young, tired versus fresh.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 63

In a Thursday interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos (Part 1 here, Part 2 here), the president offered a classic bouquet-with-a-thorn:
Well, what is true is a couple of them seem to share that vision of where the country goes. And-- and I think the 2012 election is going to be important. I said in my speech yesterday that we are-- there-- there's clarity that is emerging about where we go as a country. We are at a-- at a fork in the road here. And-- I think somebody like Paul Ryan is very sincere. I think he fundamentally believes that government should get out of the way in just about all areas of life. And he genuinely believes that you know, the more successful you or I are we should keep as much of that monetary success as we can without giving much back. And I respect his sincerity on that.
A few hours later, however, the president contradicted himself on the issue of Ryan's sincerity. Speaking to supporters without knowing that reporters were listening, he said:

When Paul Ryan says his priority is to make sure, he's just being America's accountant ... This is the same guy that voted for two wars that were unpaid for, voted for the Bush tax cuts that were unpaid for, voted for the prescription drug bill that cost as much as my health care bill -- but wasn't paid for. So it's not on the level.

Despite the president's commitment to transparency, neither of these statements is available on the White House website.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 62

CBS reports:

In what he thought was a private chat with campaign donors Thursday evening, President Obama offered the most revealing behind-the-scenes account to date of his budget negotiations with GOP leaders last week.

CBS Radio News White House correspondent Mark Knoller listened in to an audio feed of Mr. Obama's conversation with donors after other reporters traveling with the president had left the room.

In the candid remarks, Mr. Obama complains of Republican attempts to attach measures to the budget bill which would have effectively killed parts of his hard-won health care reform program


"I said, 'You want to repeal health care? Go at it. We'll have that debate. You're not going to be able to do that by nickel-and-diming me in the budget. You think we're stupid?'" recalled the president of his closed-door negotiations on the bill to fund the federal government until September.

Read more:

Friday, April 15, 2011

American Crossroads and New Democratic Groups

CNN reports on Democratic efforts to replicate the success of American Crossroads.

Steven Law, president of the conservative outside group American Crossroads, insists that Democrats already dominate outside spending -- thanks to labor unions. "For years now the unions have perfected the art of doing outside campaign ads, outside voter turnout activity," Law said, adding, "We created American Crossroads to be a counterpoint to what the unions and other groups like have done very effectively for the last several elections."

He predicts liberal groups will outspend conservatives this cycle. But Democratic fundraisers laugh that off, saying Republicans can raise far more money from deep-pocketed donors.

Apparently, it's a race to lower expectations.

Many new Republican-aligned groups popped up last election, including the American Action Network, supported by top Republican fundraiser Fred Malek and former Sen. Norm Coleman on its board.

Other major players on the conservative side: the Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity and the Club for Growth, all of which made major investments in the midterm campaign ads against Democratic candidates.

American Crossroads and affiliate Crossroads GPS is the behemoth on the scene. Co-founded by Rove, it raised $71 million and in its first year last cycle and saturated the airwaves in some hotly contested campaigns. For the coming election, it says it hopes to raise $120 million. The group tells CNN within weeks it will air ads related to the federal budget fight.

"This is one election where literally everything is at stake: the White House, the Senate majority, the House majority and even the courts for potentially a generation so everybody's very engaged and interested. And they want to continue to play and hopefully affect the direction of the country in a positive way," American Crossroads' Law says.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Reelection HQ

Rick Pearson writes at The Chicago Tribune:
Obama for America will fill an entire 50,000-square-foot floor of One Prudential Plaza, a half-century ago the city's tallest building. Boxes are being unpacked, wiring is getting an upgrade and cubicles are being installed to transform the workplace into a pulsing campaign headquarters. The location is literally across the street from the office used in the successful 2008 campaign.

David Axelrod, former senior Obama presidential adviser and current re-election political guru, justifies the move to Chicago by observing that his replacement in Washington, David Plouffe, compares the White House to working in a submarine.

"He is exactly right," Axelrod said. "You come in before dawn. You have all your meals there. You don't leave the building all that much. And you look at the world through a periscope and you're sitting there in the biggest echo chamber in the world in Washington, D.C., and you don't get a real read on what people are thinking and talking about. That's why I like being here in Chicago and working from Chicago."

be sure, there's plenty of symbolism in the campaign becoming the first in decades to move its re-election headquarters outside the nation's beltway. Given the state of technology — including video conferencing, smartphones, email and in the Internet — a campaign could be based virtually anywhere and critical communications would remain intact.

"It's a fundraising operation. In some ways, it doesn't really matter where it is. A smoked-glass office building in Chicago or Virginia, the same activities go on," said David Yepsen, the former longtime political writer for the Des Moines Register.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Romney Rollout

The Romney campaign is probably unhappy with this report from Politico's Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns:
No conversation about the former Massachusetts governor begins with a listing of his strengths as a candidate. Instead, Romney is the rare national politician defined largely by his shortcomings. The most prominent among them— his role in enacting a sweeping Massachusetts health care law exactly five years ago—was already being dissected by his Republican and Democratic opponents on Monday just moments after he announced he’s forming a presidential exploratory committee.

They go on to list five challenges:

  • Questions about his authenticity;
  • GOP opposition to his health-care law;
  • His Mormon faith;
  • His job-cutting corporate record;
  • His flip-flops on issues.

Yesterday, he announced his exploratory committee:

Conn Carroll reports at The Washington Examiner:
Team Romney chose an odd day to make the announcement to begin with. Five years ago today Romney signed the Massachusetts health care law that President Obama claims as a model for Obamacare. Choosing yesterday for his launch assured that virtually every article covering his announcement would mention the health care law that is deeply unpopular with GOP primary voters.

Perhaps Romney merely wanted to drown out a bad story with a good one, but as far as insiders are concerned his official entrance into the race was quickly overshadowed by news that Pawlenty had landed former Republican Governor’s Association executive director Nick Ayers as his campaign manager. At only 28 years old, Ayers already has an impressive electoral track record, helping the GOP gain a net seven governorships during his RGA tenure.

The Ayers hire is also a sign that MS Gov. Haley Barbour will not end up running.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Republicans Won't Necessarily Gain in Redistricting

At National Journal, Eliza Newlin Carney explains:

Democrats are pioneering new ways to collect big, unregulated donations for redistricting expertise and legal challenges. A growing redistricting reform movement, coupled with a spike in public interest, has given civil rights groups fresh tools with which to engage. And for the first time in decades, voting rights questions will land before a Democratic-appointed Justice Department.

To some degree, Republicans are victims of their own success. Having expanded their House majority into swing districts in 2010, they now have the most to lose in states that must eliminate congressional seats in the wake of the census, and even in some that will grow. In Louisiana, for example, which will lose a seat, the 6-1 GOP delegation will invariably shrink—setting up an intraparty fight over whose district gets erased.

“It’s an embarrassment of riches for the Republicans,” said Michael P. McDonald, an assistant professor of government and politics at George Mason University. “They won too many districts in 2010. And Louisiana is the canary in the coal mine for Republicans. These battles are going to play out in state after state.”

As in Louisiana, GOP legislatures have the last word over redistricting in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Florida will gain two seats, and Texas will gain four, while Ohio loses two and Pennsylvania loses one. Yet in all those states, noted McDonald, incumbents must fight over a finite number of GOP strongholds—a tussle that invariably will pit entrenched Old Bulls against newly elected Young Turks.

Take Texas, where former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay staged his controversial mid-decade redistricting to expand the Republican majority in 2003. The Lone Star State’s four-seat gain might appear to translate into four new GOP seats, said J. Gerald Hebert, executive director of the Campaign Legal Center. But Hebert added:

“That clearly is not going to happen. Because the reason Texas is gaining seats at all is because of Latino population growth. And they are going to have to respect that, or run the risk of violating the Voting Rights Act.”

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen write at Politico:

Here’s the unvarnished pitch House Speaker John Boehner would love to make to his conservative critics if he could just let it fly: “You are winning, and winning decisively. So stop your whining.”

And here’s the unvarnished truth about that pitch: Boehner would be spot on.

The winners and losers of this weekend’s 11th-hour budget deal may be in dispute. But the broader trajectory of politics, stretching back to the spring of 2009, is not. The Republican — and, yes, the tea party — agenda is not only ascendant, it’s driving the debate over reshaping government at every level.

Jubilant top Republicans told POLITICO in interviews that they plan to use the momentum from the budget fight to take a hard line with President Barack Obama in the fiscal fights of the months ahead. And the GOP leaders said they believe their new advantage in the national debate will lift the party’s presidential candidates — none of whom right now looks capable of beating Obama.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The E-Word

In a conference call last week, reporters overheard Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) rehearsed budget talking points with party colleagues: “I always use the word ‘extreme.’ That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week.” In prepared remarks yesterday, Majority Leader Reid stuck to the script:

  • “The Tea Party is trying to push through its extreme social agenda…”
  • “This is an extreme agenda that has no place in this bill.”
  • “This isn’t the time – and we don’t have the time – to fight over the Tea Party’s extreme social agenda.”

Other Democrats have been following such talking points. Some recent examples from The Congressional Record (page numbers in parentheses):

  • Sen. Pat Leahy (VT): House Republicans are “reacting to the ire of a minority of vocal, anti-government extremists” (p. S2225).
  • Sen. Ben Cardin (MD): “We do not have to yield to the extremists on the Republican side in the House who do not want to see any compromise whatsoever” (S2246).
  • Rep. Russ Carnahan (MO): “The Republican extreme cuts are not the solution” (H2336).
  • Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): “I rise today because in a few short days this body will consider an extreme and devastating anti-choice bill” (H2337).
  • Rep. James McGovern (MA): “That budget takes extreme, right-wing trickle-down economics to new levels” (H2343). “Mr. Speaker, it's time that the Republican Party does the right thing for its country and not just for the extremist wing of its party” (H2422).
  • Rep. James Moran (VA): “Take up the Moran-Tester bill instead of this expression of ideological extremism that is dead on arrival in the Senate” (H2345).
  • Rep. David Price (NC): “Republicans may be willing to risk a governmental shutdown to appease extremist elements, but we cannot allow our country to be held hostage to their radical agenda” (H2454).
  • Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD) attacked “controversial cuts and ideologically extreme poison pills that the majority knows the nation doesn't want and the Senate and the President will not support.” (H2501).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Social Media in 2012

Tammy writes at TMCnet:

It is very likely that social media helped to propel Obama into the White House, so will these tactics bode well for the 2012 election? Shortly after his bid for the 2012 race, Obama’s campaign team turned to these trusty online tools once again, immediately changing his Facebook status, tweeting his 2012 candidacy on Twitter, and sending out an email blast to millions of Democratic enthusiasts.

It didn’t stop there, as Obama’s campaign team took to YouTube and released a two-minute video featuring a number of supporters giving their “voter blessing” to the President, and sharing the reasons he should once again be voted into the White House in 2012. Looking to serve as a tag (News - Alert)-line for this year’s elections, the phrase “Are You In?” has also been strewn across these social networking sites, as well as Obama’s website,

But potential Republican Presidential candidates were also quick to hop on the social media bandwagon following Obama’s illustrious efforts to connect with voters. According to, as soon as Obama’s first campaign video appeared on YouTube last week, Tim Pawlenty, ex-governor of Minnesota and possible GOP candidate for the 2012 race, came back with his own version by boldly calling out Obama, whom Pawlenty hinted at as a failure to America. At the same time, GOP party representatives Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann (News - Alert) and Newt Gingrich responded to the Obama campaign announcement on their respective Twitter accounts.

Despite these efforts, GOP candidates have a lot of catching up to do. To put it into perspective, Pawlenty has only 81,000 Facebook fans, as opposed to Obama’s 19 million fans, which, of course, have accumulated over the past few years. Palin, who has both captured the hearts of and sparked many an uproar among Americans, has over 2 million Facebook fans.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Slow Start to 2012: More Explanations

Gerald Seib writes in The Wall Street Journal:

One Republican campaign operative says that after the 2010 election "there wasn't a lot of political oxygen in the party for candidates to break through with interesting messages or a startling program." It seemed wise to let House GOP leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor, and new Republican governors, be the party leaders for a while.


But the most intriguing force behind the campaign's pace lies in the way technology has changed the art and practice of both campaigning and fund-raising.

A combination of Facebook, Twitter and other online organizing tools, along with perches on the Fox News Network and other cable outlets, have given Sarah Palin, in particular, and Mr. Huckabee and Newt Gingrich plenty of exposure that allows them to gather supporters and organize virtually without having to formally declare. This new reality also gives Ms. Palin and Mr. Huckabee an incentive to continue earning money from TV contracts while waiting to decide.

Perhaps as important, the Internet is a fund-raising tool that allows candidates to quickly scoop up large amounts of money, if they strike a spark with voters, without having to rely as much on the traditional, time-consuming slog through fund-raising events night after night.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Romney's Strategy

AP reports:
In his first presidential run in 2008, Mitt Romney sought back-to-back victories in Iowa and New Hampshire to propel him to the GOP nomination. He won neither, the two-state sprint failed and so did his candidacy.

This time his strategy is more of a multi-state marathon, with economically suffering Nevada an important round in what advisers predict could be a protracted fight to be the party's 2012 nominee.

On his first trip this year to Nevada, the former Massachusetts governor toured a neighborhood north of Las Vegas Friday that has been very hard hit by foreclosures and talked throughout his trip of economic worries that top voters' lists of concerns.
The strategy calls for big showings in New Hampshire and Nevada to boost momentum. After that comes strong fights in enough other states so Romney enters the party convention in Tampa, Fla., next fall with more delegates pledged to him than any other Republican.

Romney seeks to seize on a change in how the GOP chooses its nominee.

Candidates who won a state used to get all delegates in a winner-take-all system. Republicans now will award delegates proportionally, meaning finishing second or third in a state is worth it. That could benefit a wealthy candidate such as Romney. In 2008, he spent $110 million, $45 million of his own money.
Any state (other than the four states allowed to conduct their processes in February) conducting its process prior to April 1, 2012 must allocate its delegates proportionally, but the definition of “proportional allocation” is left to each state’s individual discretion, subject to a final determination in accordance with the Rules. The determination to leave the definition to a state’s discretion is in recognition of the Republican Party’s established practice of allowing each state to determine its delegate selection process. The RNC desires to avoid encroaching upon each state’s authority as much as possible, while at the same time balancing the needs of both promoting order within the process and allowing more states to be involved in the selection of the Republican presidential nominee. As a result, the amended Rule No. 15(b) reflects a compromise of requiring “proportional allocation” in some form for states conducting their process earlier in the schedule, while leaving the definition to the discretion of each state and giving states that want to award their delegates on a winner-take-all basis the freedom to do so as long as they wait until at
least April 1st.

The Committee thoroughly discussed the definition of “proportional allocation” and adopted some language during its May 5, 2010 meeting to help provide guidelines associated with the new provision that the Committee determined would allow a state to comply with the proportionality requirement. These guidelines were provided to the full RNC in advance of the RNC’s vote approving the rule change and constitute important legislative history that the RNC recommends states take into account in crafting proportional allocation rules:
“‘Proportional allocation basis’ shall mean that delegates are allocated in
proportion to the voting results, in accordance with the following criteria:
i. Proportional allocation of total delegates based upon the number of statewide
votes cast in proportion to the number of statewide votes received by each
candidate shall be the default formula for calculating delegate allocation, if
no specific language is otherwise provided by a state.
ii. If total delegate allocation is split between delegates at-large and delegates
by congressional district, delegates at-large must be proportionally allocated
based upon the total statewide results.
iii. If total delegate allocation is split between delegates at-large and delegates
by congressional district, delegates by congressional district may be allocated
as designated by the state based upon the total congressional district results.
iv. A state may establish a minimum threshold of the percentage of votes received
by a candidate that must be reached below which a candidate may receive no
delegates, provided such threshold is no higher than 20%.
v. A state may establish a minimum threshold of the percentage of votes received
by a candidate that must be reached above which the candidate may receive
all the delegates, provided such threshold is no lower than 50%.
vi. Proportional allocation is not required if the delegates either are elected
independently on a primary ballot not in accordance with a primary
presidential candidate’s slate or are not bound at any time to vote for a
particular candidate.”
These parameters are included here to provide important guidance. Each state’s
“proportional allocation” system is left to the state’s discretion, but substantial departure from these guidelines carries significant risk that not all delegates will be seated.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

T-Paw: Trying Too Hard to be Hip and High-Tech?

Is Tim Pawlenty trying too hard to be the hip, with-it, high-tech guy that he really isn't? In speaking to Iowa College Republicans, Tim Pawlenty joked about Charlie Sheen, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber:

Recently he announced his exploratory committee in a video featuring eye-catching visuals:

George H.W. Bush tried a similar approach in 1992, and it was not very convincing:

Friday, April 1, 2011

Redistricting and the Lessons of 2006

In a 2006 article, I wrote about the role of redistricting in that year's Democratic takeover of the House:

On the House side, gerrymandering was an ostensible barrier to a Democratic takeover. The redistricting after the 2000 census did protect House incumbents, making it harder for the minority party to score gains. Nevertheless, some commentators overstated the effect of computer-crafted districts. No matter how technologically sharp a redistricting scheme may be, demographic and political changes start to blunt its impact as soon as the map comes out of the printer. Young people and new citizens enter the electorate. Old voters die. Americans of all ages move around. Economic and social upheavals lead people to switch their party preference. Such shifts were on stark display in New York State, where a bipartisan gerrymander had once seemed to guarantee the GOP a certain minimum of House seats. Between 2002 and 2006, the Republican registration advantage outside New York City shrank from 160,000 to less than 3,000 (Roberts 2006). This trend helped nudge three GOP seats into the Democratic column.

Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania had notorious Republican gerrymanders that boomeranged. The Wall Street Journal reported shortly after the election: “Republican leaders may have overreached and created so many Republican leaning districts that they spread their core supporters too thinly. That left their incumbents vulnerable to the type of backlash from traditionally Republican leaning independent voters that unfolded this week” (Cummings 2006).

At National Journal, Reid Wilson reports that Republicans have apparently learned some lessons from their 2006 experience:

Republicans now appear unlikely to gain a significant number of seats during this year’s redistricting process, even though five of the eight states gaining House districts voted Republican in the 2008 presidential race.

Mindful that they could risk seats that they already hold if they’re too aggressive, Republicans say their first priority will be solidifying their 2010 House gains rather than aiming for quick pickups that could be wiped out in a strong Democratic election year. “We don’t need to overreach. We’re trying to convince members to relay to their [state] legislators that, you know, this has got to be a 10-year map,” said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, who heads redistricting oversight for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “This isn’t just a map that you draw for 2012. It’s a map that you draw for 10 years.”